Recap: Night at Town Hall with George Saunders

Let me prepare you for what’s to come:  The first part of this blog is a huge Thank You to Elliott Bay Book Company, Outsiders Inn Theatre Company and Seattle Town Hall for hosting this event.

The second part of this blog is a shameless Seattle love-fest fan letter from folks in the audience after his Town Hall appearance on February 28, 2017.  Man, we do love us some George Saunders!

If you’re not familiar with George Saunders, don’t stress, just dive in! A prolific writer of short stories, Lincoln in the Bardo counts as his first published novel. What awaits you? Please read my favorite review by Alex Clark in the Guardian.  Want a warm-up? Take in “Victory Lap”: a short story from Saunders’ Tenth of December.  It captures the many voices and layers you are going to encounter when reading Lincoln in the Bardo.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo: by George Saunders (Photo Credit: Kristi Slotemaker)

In a nutshell, George Saunders is that friend. You know, the friend that you invite to a dinner party because he’s done so many unusual and wacky things in his life + excellent yarn spinner. For starters, oil exploration in Sumatra (sounds a bit Indiana Jones-y). He labored as a “knuckle-puller” in a slaughterhouse (you see what I’m talking about.) He also packed in time as a doorman, roofer and convenience store clerk (humanity burgeoning with stories, right!) His current gig? English Professor in the Creative Writing Department at Syracuse University, prolific short story-writer, New Yorker journalist who, painfully and compassionately, followed the Trump campaign and now, novelist.

Ghostly images of the actors from Outsiders Inn Theatre: Greg Barry (founding director), Rose Kinne, Dara Lillis, Ryan Sanders. (Photo Credit: Kristi Slotemaker)

Elliott Bay Book Company in cooperation with Outsiders Inn Theatre Company, provided local actors to read a poignant excerpt from the book. It really brought the soul of the book out to play.

Now for the reviews of the night for our unabashed George Saunders fan-fest:

Book Club friends gaining insight from the night. (Photo Credit: Kristi Slotemaker)

Attending tonight is going to “…make reading the book easier. I expect it to be surreal, absurd, out there.  But now having hearing him speak, you get more of his perspective and how it’s going to flow between characters.”

“You can tell he’s a teacher. Amazing. Insightful. Thoughtful. Incredible.”

“The mystery of writing was a mystery to him as well. That’s why I think it’s important to go to talks like this.  It sounds really raw – like he was talking about it for the first time.”

3 Friends basking in the glow. (Photo Credit: Kristi Slotemaker)

“He took me into his writing room. He took me into his classroom. He took me into his marriage. He took me into his silliness.”

“I liked the cursing. He came across as really genuine. Like we were a bunch of friends.”

“I loved the Town Hall Space and how there was a rapport. Two-way communication. How the audience was very in tune with him. Intimate. It was almost like being in a small classroom instead of this big building. It was very personal.”

Dedicated writer. (Photo Credit: Kristi Slotemaker)

“I heard about it today. I convinced my daughter to babysit and I’m here! I was taken with how personal he was. How in tune with audience. I really enjoyed it.”

Friends jumping in with compassion. (Photo Credit: Kristi Slotemaker)

“Publish the Trump Poem!”

(Girl, I found it! Shout out to Politics and Prose in Washington, DC. You guys rock!)

“I think what I appreciated about tonight was his humor and his ability to something so tender and so funny altogether.”

“His enormous heart. He is just the most open-hearted fan of humanity. Like he is just so warm and generous of spirit. So when he talks about his students, he talks about the process of writing, people in history, or even people in Trump land, he errs on the side of love always. And it’s astounding because he’s alert and he’s aware. He’s up to date. And he’s still able to have that wide-open heart. Which I think is an achievement today.”

“I loved his answer about the teaching vs writing. You could just get into your own world and not go back to other thinkers and new ideas.”

“I just wanted to applaud after every interaction he had with each audience member because I just felt like he was embracing them and having a conversation with them and really reaching out to them where they were and but then expanding the circle to all of us with this amazing humor, so with this sort of message of humanity and honesty and integrity, it’s an amazing blend to be that funny and that wise all at once.”

So, here’s to you, George Saunders. For teaching us, challenging us to walk in another’s shoes – and to quote a new friend…inspiring us to “err on the side of love. Always.”

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